Whether you’re crafting the next epic fantasy novel or designing the ultimate gaming realm, one thing’s for sure: organizing your world is key to unlocking its full potential. Let’s dive into why, when, and how to keep your worldbuilding project on track! 

Why Organize?

Picture this: you’ve got a notebook bursting with ideas, or a text document overflowing after a long session writing lore, but somehow, it all feels like a tangled mess. Sound familiar? Worldbuilding is like solving a massive puzzle with countless interconnected pieces. It’s easy to get lost in the chaos without a roadmap. Staying organized is the best way to make your worldbuilding project sustainable and set yourself up to grow your game or novel setting to its full potential. 

When to Start Organizing Your World

There are two schools of thought for when to organize your worldbuilding project: from the start and as you go. Both approaches have their perks and pitfalls. Planning an organized structure from the start gives you a clear blueprint to follow, like a handy to-do list. But for some of us, diving into the nitty-gritty details right away can feel like trying to sort imaginary socks by color. How can you know everything you’re going to need before you even start making anything?

On the flip side, organizing as you go allows you to work with real content, making it easier to see how everything fits together. However, it’s all too easy to get carried away and end up drowning in a sea of ideas. If you wait too long to start creating structure for your worldbuilding, you risk getting overwhelmed.

💡Tip: If you’re neurodivergent you might find that one approach works better with your natural strengths. Some worldbuilders on the spectrum might need a clear plan from the very start. Worldbuilders with ADHD might need the flexibility and improvisation that a more “sort it out as you go” approach provides.

How to Structure Your World

Ready to roll up your sleeves and get organized? Here are some tried-and-true methods to tame the chaos. It can be extremely helpful to borrow techniques from Content Strategy. For those who don’t know, content strategy is the textual equivalent of user experience design. It’s thinking through the patterns and relationships of your content, and the possible journeys a visitor could take through it. There are lots of professional resources and advice for content strategists, and many of them can be used to help you plan and organize your worldbuilding effectively.

Here are a few key concepts, borrowed from content strategy, which apply to worldbuilding:   

  • Do a Gap Analysis: Identify missing pieces in your world and fill in the blanks. This is an especially vital step if you are a “create the plan as you go” kind of creative.
  • Think like a librarian: If your world’s articles were books, how would you sort them on a shelf to make them easy to find? What would your “card catalog” look like?
  • Set up a Taxonomy: It’s a big word, but taxonomy just means “classification system.” What hierarchy of categories and subcategories will neatly store your world’s elements
  • Map Relationships: A mind map can be a great tool for this. Whether it’s one-to-one connections or complex webs of interactions, knowing how elements relate is key to making them easy to locate.
  • Prioritizing & Ordering: Not all lore is created equal. You may need to weight content based on importance and relevance. Or order your content chronologically.
  • Organize by Lifecycle: From draft to canon, every piece of content has a lifecycle. Keep track of where each element stands. Will you need it for your next session? Or not until Book 3 of your trilogy? Also, be willing to archive outdated information, if it’s merely getting in the way.

World Anvil Tools for Organizing Your World

With features like Categories, Folders, Tags, Auto-Linking, Tables of Contents, and visual aids like Maps and Timelines, a World Anvil account is like having a virtual filing cabinet for your imagination. Say goodbye to duplicate work and hello to a connected, searchable game or novel setting!

Feeling inspired to take your worldbuilding to the next level? Sign up for a free World Anvil account today and embark on your organized adventure! Whether you’re a planner or a pantser, there’s no wrong way to build your world, as long as you keep it growing. Let’s roll up our sleeves, unleash our creativity, and organize our worlds like never before.

The possibilities are endless, and the journey is just beginning!